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Hydroforming and new welding methods help reduce vehicle weight

New CAFE standards have automakers reaching for any technology they can find to help improve fuel economy. Many manufacturers are going to electric vehicles or hybrids to increase their overall fleet mileage averages. The problem with focusing only on hybrids and electric vehicles, however, is that most consumers aren't in the market for that type of vehicle.

On traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, automakers are increasingly turning to weight savings as a way to help improve fuel economy. The lighter a vehicle can be made, the less weight the engine has to push or pull around and the less fuel it uses because engines could be made smaller without sacrificing performance.

Some automakers are even turning to removing some features of cars such as CD players and the spare tire to reduce weight according to the Detroit News. Both General Motors and Ford are turning to new processes in vehicle assembly to help remove weight from the body of mainstream vehicles.

2013 Ford Fusion
Many automakers are using aluminum rather than steel to help reduce the weight of their vehicles. Hoods, trunks, and lift gates as well as door skins are commonly made from aluminum today. Ford is also experimenting with carbon fiber on the Focus.

Switching to lighter materials isn't the only way automakers are going about reducing the weight of the vehicles they produce. They're also reducing weight by changing the manufacturing processes used. Ford, for instance, is using hydroforming on the steel structural pillars of its 2013 Fusion.

One of the big benefits of hydroforming is that it allows the forming of complicated and larger parts that don't need to be welded together. Traditional stamping produces multiple parts that have to be welded at joints. Those joints are points of weakness and add weight. Using hydroforming, rather than other forms of stamping, sheds 18 pounds from each car by eliminating the additional welds.

GM is also doing its part testing a thermal-forming process for lightweight magnesium that weighs 75% less than steel. GM also plans to use a patented welding technology to allow the company to integrate more aluminum into automotive bodies by saving the company from using rivets to join aluminum body panels. The use of the welding process rather than rivets will cut nearly 2 pounds from parts such as hoods, lift gates, and doors.

Source: Detroit News

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RE: Still Waiting
By btc909 on 10/25/2012 1:12:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not suggesting a "diesel hybrid" i'm suggesting a diesel strictly as a power generator with some cheap old capacitors. The diesel engine has no connection to the drive wheels, therefore you can run a diesel at a nice steady RPM generating electrical power with no load from the total vehicles weight or drivers power demands. If you need reserve power it's also drawn from the capacitors. Or if the capacitors are topped off the vehicle runs off of the capacitors and the diesel is slowed or maybe even shut off. Batteries could be offered on higher priced vehicles. But the additional weight of the batteries or packaging issues may make this mute. Mr. Fusion is not available yet so i'll settle for diesel or even CNG or LPG. I would like to see Tesla succeed.

RE: Still Waiting
By esteinbr on 10/25/2012 5:18:18 PM , Rating: 2
Technically that is still a hybrid assuming you are still planning to have regenerative braking. It's just a serial hybrid in stead of a parallel hybrid. I'm pretty sure you'd need to go with batteries across all models. Capacitors just don't hold enough charge to cover what you'd need. You'd end up starting and stopping the engine too often with capacitors draining and filling up too quickly.

RE: Still Waiting
By danjw1 on 10/25/2012 7:38:53 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking you were suggesting something along the lines of an "extended range EV", like the Chevy Volt. But you just want a generator, with no batteries. I am not sure how efficient that would actually be. You are still wasting energy as heat, as you do with any internal combustion engine. I am not sure if what you are suggesting would be any more efficient than just having a diesel engine.

No need for mister fusion, what we need is an efficient way to crack hydrogen and a safe way to store it in a vehicle. Both are being worked on. I view the work in EVs as predictors to fuel cell vehicles.

In case you didn't know, Tesla just launched their first 5 (6?) supercharging stations in California. Opening up 30 minute charging to half capacity for trips between San Francisco, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. There plan is to build out a coast to coast network of them. These are free to Tesla owners.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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